Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: remember

Remembering in order to persevere

We all have special moments of truth in life.  These drive-a-stake-in-the-ground moments happen when we discover or decide something to be true, and we choose to change the direction of our lives because of them.  These moments include times like taking vows when getting married, signing to purchase a home or vehicle, and when we accept Christ as our Savior. 

Based upon these declarations, we confirm to ourselves and others that, going forward, we will take action that is dependent upon this truth.  In our three examples above, we are confessing that we choose this person as our spouse above all others, that we’re going to pay off the loan, and that we’re trusting Christ for eternal life.

When times get tough – marital problems, financial issues, spiritual doubts – we can look back to those special moments of truth, remember what we said we would do, and then draw the strength from our initial resolve.

Timothy had moments like that, too.  Given the struggles he was going to face as he dealt with the melting pot culture of Ephesus and the abundance of false teachings, he would need some encouragement.  Paul instructed him to find encouragement in what he already knew to be true.

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of eternal life,
to which you were called
and have made a good confession
before many witnesses.

However, this is more than a “you said you would” moment…Paul didn’t want Timothy to think he was the only one.  So, he also gives Timothy an example to remember and lean upon:

1 Timothy 6:13-15
In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, point blank, if He was the King of the Jews (John 18:33).  And when asked, Jesus didn’t shy away from stating his mission.  Earlier, when He was struggling with the impending pain and suffering and death, Jesus’ high priestly prayer was about relying on God the Father.  When He would struggle later as He hung on the cross, Jesus quoted scripture to help Him stay on mission.

Paul’s point is that Timothy, too, can stay on mission…he can keep the commandment to fight the good fight and take hold of eternal life in the here and now.  No matter what life throws at him, and no matter the opposition this young leader would face in Ephesus, Timothy can look back to his own good confession of who Christ is in his life…and find the strength to complete his own mission and calling.  Just like Jesus did.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Identity and practice

Colossians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother:
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

After identifying himself and his protégé Timothy as the senders of the letter, Paul’s greeting is loaded of interesting word choices.  His letters’ introductions typically contained an allusion or preview of his intended focus.

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae.

The Greek word for saints means sacred or holy, and the word is often used in the New Testament in reference to believers.  To be holy is to be set apart for God and His purposes.

Paul also calls his recipients faithful brothers.  While the term for faithful means someone who is trustworthy and faithful, it generally referred to someone who had shown themselves faithful in executing business transactions, in following commands, or performing duties.

Whenever we look up terms, it’s a good idea to go back to the verse and paraphrase it with our new understanding:

This letter is sent to those who are uniquely set apart for God’s purpose, the ones who are faithful and trustworthy family members – the people who are in Christ’s family and living in Colossae.

So whatever Paul has to say in this letter, his intended audience are those who already believe Christ for eternal life.  Paul didn’t write this letter to evangelize a group of non-believers; instead, his topics are primarily for an in-house discussion.  Remembering Paul’s target audience will help us as we interpret his words. 

Also keep in mind that out of all the letters Paul wrote – in his introductions, he referred to only two churches as being faithful – Colossae and Ephesus.

While they were saints in their position before God, they were faithful brothers because of what they did in the practice.

Paul wants them to remember their identity as saints in Christ.  How they live is an outpouring of who they are and who they understand themselves to be in Christ.  Although the Colossian church was doing well in this regard, Paul would continue to emphasize these two themes of identity and practice.  Later on in the letter, he explains why these themes are so important:

Colossians 1:28
We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

If we’re struggling and not being faithful in our God-given responsibilities, we’re not going to mature.  Perhaps it’s because we’ve forgotten our identity as saints in Christ.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Remembering God's words

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He directly quoted two different psalms.  With everything He had endured in the previous 24 hours, how was He able to keep His mind focused enough to recall something David had written 1000 years previously?

When we think about the various settings around Jesus during His week before the cross, it becomes obvious that He wasn’t spending His time skimming the scrolls or trying to cram in a phrase or two during the Last Supper.  For Jesus to clearly recall God’s Word on the cross, in the midst of such intense trial and pain, He must have spent time previously with the Scriptures available to Him…and not just a little time, either.  To have Scripture at the tip of His tongue, to be able to recall God’s exact words while the whole world is crashing down…would require both preparation and repetition. 

The Jewish education system at the time was founded upon the student’s ability to memorize large portions of the Old Testament, beginning with the first five books of our Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  If a student did well, he would move on to the prophets and wisdom literature. 

Certainly Jesus did well, not only memorizing Scripture but also understanding it.  This was evidenced when He was 12 and went to the temple:

Luke 2:46-47 After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.

His ability to converse with the teachers of the Law would have come from the amount of time spent in the Scriptures.  A fair assumption would be that a significant amount of time in the Old Testament Scriptures before His public ministry began at age 30.  Doing so helps explain why Jesus was ready and able to quote Scripture when being tempted by Satan…because as a youth, He spent His time preparing for the days ahead when He would need to recall God’s Word.

The same principle is available to us as well.  The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more ready we are when difficulties arise.  When a crisis hits, how comforting would it be to be able to remind ourselves of what God has previously said?  In fact, this coincides with one of Jesus’s last promises to His disciples:

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

However, it is more difficult for the Holy Spirit to remind us of what Jesus said, if we haven’t been looking in the first place…

Putting the same Scriptures in front of our eyes often and meditating on them helps commit them to memory.  So let’s do the same with the psalm we’ve been looking at.  Having the promises we’ve learned – that when our hearts are without strength, we can trust God to handle our current circumstances.  We can trust God with our present struggles, as well as our future issues, because we remember how God has protected and strengthened us during previous crises.

Let’s take Jesus at His word and follow His example.  Pay attention to these four verses this week.  Read them often, say them out loud.  Do your best to bury these words deep in your mind, so that when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will be able to bring them to the front of your mind and the tip of your tongue.

Psalm 61:1-4

God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer.
I call to You from the ends of the earth
when my heart is without strength.

Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for You have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.

I will live in Your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Remember to remember

Paul has spent a large amount of his letter giving instructions about how a believer’s life should look.  Our lives are to be an out-pouring of our relationship with our Savior.  Paul repeatedly instructs Titus to focus on doing good, and he provides suggestions on how the Cretans should be doing good as well:

Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

This is certainly not an easy list, especially the last one.  Humility is a difficult character trait to develop around the people we love and like…but to demonstrate it toward all men?

To show true humility would be to intentionally put others’ interests ahead of our own, to manifest our care of others in a gentle manner, with meekness.  Meekness means to have a person’s strengths be fully under their control.  A tamed stallion remains just as strong when he was wild; however, now that he is tamed, his meekness allows his strength to be put to good use.  When we show true humility toward all men, we are taking control of our strengths and desires, using them for the betterment of the people around us.

While that sounds all well and good…what immediately comes to mind is that people are generally selfish, rude, uninterested in spiritual matters, suspicious, and focused on all the wants/needs of this life.

And Paul doesn’t disagree with that assessment, either.

Titus 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

I love how Paul says “we” – that at one time we too were foolish.  Paul is including himself with these non-Jewish Cretans when he describes just how bad off they all were in their sinful lives.  Paul wants them to remember that at one point, the Cretan believers were outsiders too!

Our tendency to get wrapped up in “Christian living” has the ability to isolate us from those outside of the faith.  I’ve heard it said that it takes a new Christian about 3 years to completely remove from their lives all non-essential interactions with non-Christians.  We believers tend to form a holy huddle and do “Christian” things with only “Christian” people.  

This is a terrible habit, and Paul wants the Cretan believers to avoid this kind of behavior.  By having them act in humility toward all men and by bringing up their common background, Paul’s message to the new Cretan church is simple – Don’t forget where you came from.

We used to be in the same mess that non-believers find themselves in now.  And when we didn’t deserve it, at a time that we were completely self-absorbed, Jesus acted in true humility toward all men.   Jesus took control of his strengths and desires, and put our needs above his needs, for the betterment of all people.

It becomes easier to reenact humility toward others when we remember that it was extended to us first, even when we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

Keep Pressing,
Ken